This is an amazing time to build a PC! Online tutorials are plentiful, and desktop components are so standardized, building a computer is almost foolproof. We say “almost” because, if you haven’t done your homework, you can still mess things up.
Nevertheless, as many PC builders have noted, building a desktop today is pretty much like assembling an adult LEGO set with wires. It can also be a gut-wrenching experience, though, since real money’s on the line. Screwing up a $500 CPU is going to kill your soul and your wallet.
Still, if you’ve done your research and you’re organized, spending an hour (or six) putting together a desktop PC can be a rewarding experience.
These five tips will set you on the road to mastering PC building.
Watch a Lot of PC Builds on YouTube. Then, Watch More
You can never watch enough PC build tutorials. You should watch as many as you can, from as many different sources as you can. You want to thoroughly understand the basics of seating the CPU, mounting the cooler, and slotting in RAM. You’ll also want to decide the order in which you want to assemble your PC.
Some people fit the motherboard in the case right away, most put on the CPU and cooler first, while others add as many components as they can outside the case first. There are advantages and disadvantages to each method, and sometimes, even the type of case you have can impact these decisions.
You want to get a sense of what you’ll be most comfortable with and watching a ton of tutorials helps with that. Focus on tutorials that use the same make and generation of CPU you have. AMD and Intel use slightly different methods to install a CPU in the motherboard.
Also, check out builds using the same PC case you have, as they all have idiosyncrasies. Watching tutorials with the same one will give you tips on the potential issues and advantages of your case.
There’s no doubt about it, static electricity can damage your PC components. However, you don’t have to build a PC in your underwear to avoid static shocks. Experienced builders don’t even need an antistatic bracelet, although we do recommend first-time builders use one.
Even if you use a bracelet, you should still follow some basic principles. Inevitably, there will be a time when you have to repair or replace something on your PC without an antistatic bracelet. Knowing some basic rules will keep you safe.
First, build on a table that doesn’t have carpet underneath it, if you can avoid it. This way, you’re less likely to create a static charge. Second, don’t build on an extremely dry day, when there’s a lot of static electricity in the air. It’s just not worth the risk. Your PC components will keep for another day or two.
Third, touch a metal part of the PC case each time before you touch any components. An easy trick is to rest your arm on the metal of the case whenever possible.
Finally, don’t wear static-friendly clothing, like wool or synthetic materials—stick with cotton on build day.
Installing the CPU
You can’t help but be a little nervous when it’s time to put the CPU in the motherboard socket. Processors aren’t cheap, and putting that little bit of encased silicon in the motherboard is the least foolproof part of building a PC. Yet, if you understand the process, it’s also one of the easiest steps.
Make sure you know exactly how installing your CPU is supposed to work by watching the aforementioned tutorials. When it comes time to do it, just relax and make it happen. It will be very anticlimactic after all the buildup, but that’s a good thing.
Keep It Simple
A PC with a custom, closed-loop cooler and tons of RGB lighting strips will look awesome! It will also complicate the building process immeasurably.
For your first PC, keep it simple. You can get some case fans with RGB lighting, sure, but don’t add any complexity beyond the basics. In fact, an all-in-one cooler is probably a little much for a first-time builder.
Stick to the absolute basics and see if you can get that to work before moving on to the more complicated stuff. The important thing with a first-time build is to get it done in an organized manner and have the PC successfully post (boot to a start screen).
Cable management doesn’t really matter for performance, but do it anyway. Proper cable just management looks better, especially if you use a case with a transparent side.
Thinking about cable management also helps you stay organized. This is incredibly important when you’re staring at a table filled with computer components, wires, and tiny screws.
There are many other issues you can run into when building a PC. To that end, here are a few more tips:
- A fully modular power supply is worth the money: Modular PSUs don’t come with the cables integrated into the box. Instead, you have to pick and choose the cables you need. Modular PSUs mean fewer cables to manage inside the case, which is good for a first-time builder.
- Get a motherboard with an integrated I/O shield: Again, you want to keep your first build simple. Some motherboards come with an I/O shield (the piece on the back of the case that labels all the motherboard’s ports and inputs) you have to snap into place first. Others come with one attached. Get the latter unless you have your heart set on a specific motherboard. Snapping an I/O shield into place and lining it up with the motherboard isn’t that hard, but it’s an extra complication you don’t need.
- PCPartPicker is your friend: Getting the right parts for your build is critical. If an item isn’t compatible, this website will let you know. Create an account, add the parts you want to use, and PCPartPicker’s System Builder will let you know if there are any compatibility issues.
- Keep it basic, but have fun: A number of PC builders like to do extra things, like putting a Funko POP inside the case. Just be sure you use double-sided tape on the feet so it won’t fall over.
- Your build is never done: A few months or a year after your PC is done and working well, feel free to add that all-in-one (AIO) cooler you wanted. Or, try adding some more RGB to the case. Just make sure you watch tutorials for all of those things before taking action, just like you did before the primary build.
PC building can be a rewarding experience, but it pays to do your homework. Keep it simple at first. Don’t sweat the difficult bits (they’re not that hard), and for heaven’s sake, keep your cables neat and tidy!